Q&A: Managing employee travel quarantines

Q&A: Managing employee travel quarantines
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Q: How should I deal with annual leave requests where my employee would be required to quarantine after travelling abroad?

A: There may be a need for some flexibility exercised here. 

Simply put, discretion is the keyword when it comes to how employers should deal with this issue, especially because statutory sick pay is not payable for quarantine-related self-isolation periods.

Employers may exercise such discretion by having a policy in place to govern the taking up of annual leave for quarantine after travelling abroad.

Once the decision has been made to have a policy, what next?

Policies of this nature can be tricky to draft, especially because even though most, if not all, employers have a policy on taking up annual leave, none have likely dealt with this type of issue before.

It may therefore be beneficial for the policy to stipulate that staff can decide how they use this quarantine period, emphasising that annual leave is not the only option open to them, or that employers can allocate a specific method of managing the period to staff.

In a policy that outlines that staff can decide what works best for them, employers may find it useful to first think about what this might include.

For example, will they be guaranteed any of the options that they request? Or can they mix them – for example, annual leave one week and home-working the next?

Although this method would give staff a significant level of control over what they can and/or cannot do during a period of self-isolation, employers still have the final say.

Employers may, however, want to implement a more stringent policy – either one that tells staff what they should be prepared to do if they must self-isolate after travelling abroad, which may or may not include annual leave, or one that tells staff the options they are permitted to request and those they not.

This will allow employers to implement solutions that will not be detrimental to their business while also allowing staff to choose which will work best for them.

The latter of the two more stringent policies is arguably the most advisable as it is less likely to reduce morale among staff, who may be happy to use other suitable means of spending their self-isolation periods if being granted annual leave is not possible. 

This might work, for example, in situations where too many members of staff are requesting annual leave at the same time, causing a shortfall in available staff.

If employers choose to either accept all requests, implement stringent rules around dealing with requests (in case of an influx), or stand somewhere in the middle, having a policy in place is the best approach to managing travel-related quarantine periods.

Policies should ideally deal with annual leave requests as well as alternative options such as home working.